JEDDAH: Hatem Al-Akeel, the Saudi fashion designer behind menswear brand Toby, is taking on a new role as a podcast host exploring the Kingdom’s creative scene in his show “Gems of Arabia.”
Al-Akeel launched his audiovisual podcast in May and his interviewees so far include Saudi Fashion Week founder Princess Nourah Al-Faisal; Nadine Kenzo, founder of jewelry brand Bil Arabi; opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahiti; and Level Shoes founder Rania Masri.
“If you have a talent you have to nurture it, cultivate it,” Al-Akeel, who is also the founder of brand consultancy Authenticite, told Arab News. “You don’t have to be a lawyer or a doctor to excel and make a business.”
Al-Akeel stressed that the creatives he has chosen to interview were selected because they are genuinely talented.
“There’s this idea that we’re supporting them just because they’re Saudi,” he said. “No, we support them because they’re amazing. They just happen to be Saudi.
“When you say we're only supporting them because they’re Saudi, it raises the question: What about the rest? The ones who are living in — and contributing to — Saudi who are amazing, but aren’t Saudi?”
“Gems of Arabia,” he said, is inclusive, and will feature people who are shaping the Saudi landscape in a positive way, regardless of their nationality. Nor will the podcast focus only on well-known names in the creative scene, it will also feature those who are just getting started in their creative careers, too.
“We have to realize that there are a lot of hidden gems that we don’t know about. There are a lot of overlooked people who may not have the capital, who don’t have the public relations possibilities, but (deserve attention),” said Al-Akeel.
The podcast has the same name as a column Al-Akeel has been writing for BURO magazine over the past three years.
“In it I write about all the people that inspire me, from designers to entrepreneurs to artists,” he explained. “From people like Princess Reema to people like Lina Malaika, who is really an amazing Saudi visionary showing the beauty of Jeddah landscapes, and incredible entrepreneurs who are really changing and showing what Saudi is all about.
“So I decided to take this to the next step and start my podcast. It highlights both the shimmering and the hidden gems; the ones that are aspirational, that guide us to what is inspiring, and the ones who we don’t know about — and are maybe just (starting out),” he concluded.